Though birds are among the most popular companion animals in the United States, little scholarly research has focused on the human- companion parrot relationship. This study uses an ethnographic approach and qualitative analysis to examine the parrot-pet owner relationship. Two and one half weeks of ethnographic fieldwork were carried out in a veterinary clinic specializing in avian and exotic medicine. These observations complement the results of quantitative data and qualitative analysis of texts from questionnaires completed by 100 parrot owners outside the clinic. Both textual analysis and observations in the veterinary clinic revealed some interesting insights into the social dimensions of the human-companion parrot relationship, which was rated superior to that of cats and dogs by some bird owners. Various patterns of human-avian interactions emerged from the data, including childhood experience with birds, affection and physical contact with birds, birds as family members and the nature of the human-parrot bond, infantilization (delayed weaning and parrot as child surrogate), anthropomorphism (celebration of holidays, diet, death and spirituality, and misinterpretation of bird behavior), intersubjectivity and cognition, and anthropocentrism (bird as object). Misinterpretation of bird behavior and failure to recognize the unique physiological and social needs of their species may lead to impaired welfare. On the other hand, according the bird a social status as cherished family member, may enhance their welfare. In addition, other factors are considered that may enhance or detract from the welfare of companion parrots. In a discussion of hypotheses regarding the human-pet bond, it is concluded that the data presented by this study best support the social support hypothesis.
|Author Address||Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Western Illinois University, 1 University Circel, Macomb, IL 61455-1390, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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